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To agent or to no agent… and which agent? Those are the questions! Sometimes I feel like you can find an opinion to match what you think/want to hear on any aspect of the industry. I always go with the study that confirms that I’ll live longer for drinking a glass of wine a day, so I get it. All you’ll be getting here is my opinion, but let’s face it, that’s par for the course in this column. And (drumroll, please) my answer to the agent or not to agent and which one question(s) is:

it depends. Don’t worry, I’ll explain.

Commercial actors should never be confused about commercial representation.  

In general, an actor’s goal should be to secure agent representation. The rumor has always been that it’s easier to acquire commercial representation than theatrical, and it’s likely true. Some people are signed commercially solely because they have often-requested special skills, are bilingual, have high level improv abilities or simply due to their great commercial look. You don’t have to come with a bunch of commercial bookings or theatrical credits to secure commercial representation. Those things might come in handy when upgrading your representation but aren’t necessarily needed for lower or even mid level commercial rep.

The questions I always get:

Is a “bad” agent better than no agent?

Here’s where the answers begin to have the same two word answer: it depends. First of all, I don’t encourage hanging on to a “bad” agent, if they truly are bad. Let’s define “bad” as an unethical or “scam” agent. Let’s use the term “lower level” agent, instead. If you are new to commercials, new to the industry, just starting your relationships in town and enrolling in commercial classes, I might say a lower level commercial agent could work out fine for you. If you’ve never booked a commercial in your life, a lower level agent might be perfect for you; completely appropriate, no matter how long you’ve been at it. As long as the lower level agent isn’t keeping you from the agent that best suits you at the (higher) level you are at, I say go for it. Just remember that change is hard for some people. Don’t stay with a low level agent forever. After you’ve taken the classes, created the relationships, got the auditions and booked some low level jobs, consider making a move up in your representation. (And EEK! how do you know if an agent is truly “bad”? Do your online research and talk to your actor pals)

Should I submit to the best commercial agents in town?

Again, you guessed it, it depends. How could you go wrong with one of the best commercial agencies in the industry? Sometimes a great agent is a bad idea. It’s possible to be represented beyond where you are at. I hear that an actor can get lost when they are over represented. I guess maybe, but I find that hard to believe in the world of online submissions. What may be more accurate- you may not be the first, most submitted or pitched actor on the roster. Casting directors hate when agents submit their whole roster on a role. We hope they will be discerning and thoughtful in their submissions and you may simply not make the submission cut. The best agencies in town may not submit on non union jobs or low budget SAG jobs (low budget digital waivers, industrial contracts or internet only). What happens when those are exactly what you should be going in on? That would definitely be a problem. I’m all about being where you are actually at. You may actually be at the low to mid level commercial representation realm where they would be happy to submit on jobs with lower rates to get you out there and get some experience. And that’s ok! Better than ok, it’s a good idea. How is it even possible to have representation beyond where you are at? I think most commonly, as a referral or favor from someone with clout, but I’m sure the reasons vary. You want your agent to be as excited about representing you as you are excited about working with them.

Across the board representation is bad, right?

It depends! The common thought is that’s usually better to have commercial representation that is different than your theatrical representation. The reason behind that is rarely do you find an absolutely stellar commercial and theatrical department under the same roof. If you are at the level of having the best commercial representation and the best theatrical representation, then you probably won’t be represented across the board by anyone. But let’s face it, not many actors are at the top of both games. So, be where you are at and know your goals and priorities. You can leverage your good theatrical career for commercial representation, if that is what you are lacking (across the board) and vise versa. There are plenty of actors who use their commercial dollars to attract a manager and theatrical rep. If that works for you and your theatrical goals, more power to you! When you are just starting your commercial and theatrical career, I’m not sure why you would turn down representation across the board, as long as you pay attention to when you need to make a change.

In the end, I’d say representation is better than no representation as long as you are with a reputable agency. There’s no shortcut, you have to do your research on that. And as your career advances, keep evaluating as to whether you are where you should be representation-wise. And remember to put in the work YOU need to do to make yourself a desirable actor both in seeking representation, as well as securing the audition slot. The good news is, the work is the same for both!

**Want to take a 4-week Commercial Class with Laurie Records? Check it out and sign up now at:**

Laurie Records (Casting Director, CCDA) has been working in the commercial realm since 2004. In 2009, Laurie launched her own company. While she casts all types of commercials, she has broadened her horizons to include casting web content for network television, television hosts, voiceover, industrials, and dabbles in casting features and short films. Recent commercial jobs include: Head & Shoulders, Mercedes, and KMART. She also cast the new Movie Surfers for seasons 16/17, as well as online content for The Muppets.